Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Warning: Contains Minor Spoilers
Released on Shudder on March 31st, The Unheard is a troubling tale of Haunted Frequency and confronting memories through grief. The film begins with a necessary warning for viewers who may have photosensitivity as it contains a lot of flashing imagery. The distinct purpose of using the noisy, static ridden images was to convey the theory of what is known as the Haunted Frequency. The term is not used outright in The Unheard, but the plot encompasses the theory that paranormal or supernatural sounds or even physical sightings can be transmitted using particular frequencies. Hence the reason why most ghost-detecting gadgets make the utmost use of electromagnetic fields and so on. But this is not a straight-up ghost story. There’s a giant-sized psychological element within the story that spurs the viewer to wonder if grief and paranoia are the true triggers for what the main protagonist is experiencing.
Chloe Grayden (Lachlan Watson from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) contracted meningitis when she was eight years old and spent six months in a coma. When she finally awoke, Chloe is informed of the devastating news that her mother had disappeared without a trace and that she was now deaf. Twelve years later, she undergoes an experimental procedure to restore her hearing. She chooses to go to the family’s summer house where her mother disappeared years before to recover and help pack up as she and her father have now decided to put it up for sale.
Director Jeffrey A. Brown (The Beach House) cleverly decides to incorporate the isolation of silence in the first 40 minutes so that the audience gets to experience along with the main protagonist the transition to being suddenly bombarded by sounds. There’s a creepy, unnerving element during the silent sequence that makes the build-up worth it for the transition to sound. Chloe’s hearing is restored by 80 per cent and while she is elated at the success of the procedure, she soon begins to experience very troubling auditory hallucinations.
Watson’s performance is strong and believable. There’s an underlying complexity to Chloe’s character that can be a bit tricky to portray. Chloe had a lot of suppressed grief over her mother’s disappearance and was old enough to remember the sound of her mother’s voice (this is explained as the main reason later on in the film why she signed up for the procedure). However, after Chloe’s hearing is restored, she begins to be tormented by her mother’s voice calling out to her from beyond old home movies that she seems to be dangerously obsessed with. At first, we are left to wonder if the hallucinations are a form of psychosis due to the combination of being overwhelmed by her restored hearing and the grief as she is now being forced to confront in her childhood home.
One of the negative aspects of The Unheard is the unnecessarily long run time clocking in at two hours. This causes a major stumble in the story’s execution and causes the attention of the audience to falter big time. A particularly intense sequence where the audience is introduced to the existence of a serial killer in the small town feels like it was awkwardly spliced into the film even though it was genuinely frightful. There are varying plot threads to the story, but they don’t come together as seamlessly as one would have liked.
The flashing, distorted visuals, and auditory static screeches can also give one that uneasy “nails running down a chalkboard” feeling. It even made me feel a bit queasy in the stomach. However, the sensory overload is necessary to create disorientation so that the viewer can share in the experience of the main protagonist as she tries to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
The journey through The Unheard has the power to draw your attention just enough for it to be a decent watch and still manages to get you hooked on the underlying mystery.
Alice’s Score: 6 out of 10
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Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More